The brain is the seat of all functions of the human body, working every day and every night, flawlessly and immaculately. Besides, controlling all simple functions in the body, it is also responsible for formulating theories and making groundbreaking inventions. No matter how perfect this organ is, it is still exposed to imperfections of human genetics and that is where the Brain Tumours come in.
Dr. Prakash Singh says, brain tumours although uncommon and treatable are still a cause of anxiety and fear to the patient. It is a big relief to know that surgery of brain tumours has now become very safe and gives good results in able and experienced hands. In the succeeding lines, he has answered some of the important questions and concerns that a patient with a brain tumour might have:
What is a brain tumour?
A brain tumour is a tissue mass that is formed by uncontrolled/abnormal growth due to changes in the genes/DNA (mutations) of cells of the brain or its membranes.
What are different types of a brain tumour?
Brain tumours when they come from the cells of brain its membranes are known as a primary brain tumour. These can be benign (Non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The most common tumour arises from the supporting cells of the brain (Glial cells) are known as Gliomas and those arising from the membranes of the brain are called Meningiomas. Some others arise from the nerve sheaths are known as Schwannomas. Tumours arising from the pineal and pituitary glands (both are parts of brain} are known as Pineal and Pituitary tumours respectively. Some time tumours from other parts of body metastasise (reach) to the brain, such tumours are known Secondary (Metastatic) brain tumour.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of brain tumours are caused either by an increase in the intracranial pressure or dictated by the location of the tumour in the brain. Common symptoms of brain tumour are as follows:-
1. Symptoms by Raised Pressure in the Cranium (Head): A headache is the most common symptoms of brain tumours. It is generally throbbing, progressive and worse in the morning.
Impairment of Consciousness: As the tumour grows bigger patient develops drowsiness (sleepiness) and with further progression of the tumour can lead to unconsciousness.
2. Symptoms due to Location of Tumour
Seizure (Fits) is the second common feature of brain tumour, they can major fit with the loss of consciousness or subtle/minor (focal) such as jerky movement of one side of the face, arm or leg or transitory tingling sensation or a blank look.
The weakness of Body develops opposite to the side of tumour in the head when part of the brain controlling the movement gets involved.
Disturbances of Speech when a tumour occurs in the speech area or in its vicinity, speech is affected and the patient presents with disturbances of speech. Speech can also be affected if coordination system (cerebellum) is affected by the tumour.
The clumsiness of movement, difficulty in body balance and coordination develops when balancing system (Cerebellum) gets affected.
What tests do I need?
Though a good clinical examination will definitely point to the diagnosis, this is confirmed by Contrast-enhanced MRI or Contrast-enhanced CT scan of the brain. Availability of these investigations in the last few decades has tremendously helped in the early diagnosis of brain tumours, early treatment and thus better outcomes.
What are different treatment modalities?
Surgery is the mainstay of the treatment. It will be needed for complete excision, debulking (reducing the volume of tumour) or stereotactic biopsy depending on the indication and therefore has a major role in the treatment of brain tumour. With development microsurgical techniques, modern infrastructure (intraoperative CT/MRI, Image guided surgery etc), safe anaesthesia and improved postoperative ICU care; surgery have become quite safe in good neurosurgical centres and experienced hands.
Radiosurgery: Actually no surgery is done but a precise concentrated radiation dose is given by special machines (Gamma Knife) to the tumour with the help of computerised planning, in such a way that it does not harm the normal surrounding brain structures. But it can be given to some tumours when they are of small size(less than 3 cms) whether benign and malignant. Radiosurgery can also be done surgically difficult to remove tumours or residual part of the tumour. Effect on tumour takes some years show.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are needed for many malignant tumours of the brain and help in controlling the progression of the disease.
Are all brain tumours life threatening? Is complete treatment of brain tumour possible?
Not all Brain tumours are threatening and a complete treatment of the tumour is possible. However, you can visit Dr. Prakash Singh, Head, Neurosciences at Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket for the best treatment.